Professional Comment

The Hospitality Sector Must Leverage Digital Payment Innovations to Successfully Navigate the Pandemic and Enable Business Growth

By Travis Henry, Senior Partnership Manager of Travel & Hospitality industries at international payment service provider ECOMMPAY (

Few sectors have been as hard-hit by the pandemic as hospitality. For almost 18 months, businesses have been asked to close for indefinite amounts of time, reopen at a moment’s notice or have been teased by ever-changing restriction-easing dates. Hospitality has seen the biggest economic decline of all sectors of the economy since the pandemic began. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, it is estimated that the hospitality sector lost out on £30 billion of revenue.

Even now, when the UK’s vaccine rollout is hailed as a success, and Freedom Day offers hope, hospitality businesses are still shouldering a disproportionate burden from the pandemic.With COVID cases rising fast, the sector is facing inevitable booking cancellations and refund requests. Even pre-pandemic, no shows reportedly cost the industry £16 billion per annum.

The picture is not much brighter when you look to the international stage. As Europe lags behind the UK’s vaccine rollout, and as their lockdowns are extended, the traffic light system is very much flickering.The uncertainty surrounding tourism from abroad is putting into question the “greatness” of the British summer season.

Hospitality businesses need to be more flexible and adaptable than ever to survive.To support them, mer- chant payment providers must act as reliable third parties to help manage and mitigate the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. In doing so, they provide the chance to demonstrate how digitalisation of the payment process enhances their offerings and protects not only their own data but their customers too.

Merchant Payment Providers:A helping hand

The hospitality industry has, until now, built itself a complex payments structure to offer its customers flexible services – with legacy technology often connecting a system of suppliers, distributors, processors, security systems and payment options. However, there are simpler and more efficient ways to deliver.

Many merchants have had to move to online store offerings, which demands the necessary certifications to take payments online, and can often be a time-consuming and expensive process. Instead, there is a more optimal solution available in the form of a digital payment link.A one-time invoice where the order data is sent via email, messenger or any other convenient method, and executed in a matter of clicks. Since sending a link doesn’t require integration with a payment gateway or Application Programming Interface (API), merchants

who aren’t in a position to hire developers or spend money on building in-house IT infrastructure no longer need to. Many payment providers now offer a single client interface, whereby merchants can create payment links, monitor payment statuses in real-time, analyse incoming revenues, and create financial reports all in one place.

Online payment providers, particularly those with Open Banking solutions which offer a secure way to share financial information, are also in prime position to help the hospitality sector. By offering fast, secure, and easy refunds in instances where customers have prepaid or put down a deposit, hospitality businesses can use this data to better understand and maintain customer satisfaction despite unavoidable cancellations – increasing the chance of return business. Similarly, omitting charge-backs for refunds is a welcome measure to help struggling businesses keep costs low. Removing credit and debit cards in favour of Open Banking alternatives also eliminates the chargeback risks associated with fraud – which has also risen throughout the pandemic – or insufficient funds.

Merchant payment providers are also in a favourable position to reduce the unreliability of international tourism in the Summer of 2021. By leveraging Open Banking APIs, cross-border payments will be made easier and faster.This will, on the one hand, incentivise tourists to pre-book with UK hospitality businesses, but also facilitate refunds in cases affected by international travel restrictions.

What next for payments in the hospitality sector?

For all the upheaval caused by the pandemic, it has catalysed many pre-existing trends in the hospitality payments space. In an increasingly globalised world, customers need effective international payment solutions offering both global coverage and local solutions.This will be invaluable as businesses continue to navigate both the pandemic impacts and the Brexit transition. ECOMMPAY’s research found that more than one in three UK businesses (37%) have lost revenue from cross-border card payments post-Brexit, with an average revenue loss of £66,812.

Similarly, hospitality businesses have always wanted to ensure customer satisfaction whilst keeping costs low. Open Banking services bridge this gap, offering flexible and fast payment options.

Customers are increasingly digitally literate. ECOMMPAY’s research found that one in five (20%) consumers used a digital wallet for the first time or started using one regularly in 2020. So, although the challenge of COVID is sizable, consumers are already well-versed with the tools offered by digital payment providers. Therefore, hospitality businesses can rely on these services to continue to manage the impact of the pandemic throughout Summer 2021 and beyond.

Admiral Taverns Acquires Hawthorn know Hawthorn spoke very highly of the pubs we own, the way we run our business, and the people within the company.

“In a few short years, Hawthorn has become one of the most well- respected pub-owning companies in the UK, with a best-in-class operating platform, a high-quality management team, and industry-leading licensee satisfaction scores.

“As CEO of this business, it is a privilege and honour to serve along- side you all. I’ve always said that the strength of this business is its people, and I’d like to thank every single member of our team, for the fun, challenges and achievements we’ve shared together.When we created a community pub company seven years ago, little did we know we would be recognised at the top of our brilliant industry in such a short space of time as a leading L&T and Operator-Managed pub company and we can all be very proud.

“The last 18 months have shown just how vital the community pub is to the social fabric of this country, and I’m incredibly proud of the role we have played in helping our Pub Partners and Operators not just survive this most challenging period, but to also ensure they’ve been able to come out stronger on the other side.

“Chris and the Admiral team will inherit more than 670 thriving community pubs and a fantastic group of highly committed, loyal and talented people, and we wish them and the new owners every success for the future.”

The Board of Admiral Taverns, has announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Hawthorn, the Community Pub Company, from NewRiver REIT PLC (“NewRiver”).The nationwide portfolio of 674 pubs is comprised of a mixture of predominately tenanted, leased and operator managed sites across England,Wales and Scotland.

The acquisition is a continuation of Admiral’s growth strategy to expand its wet-led community pub portfolio and will take the Group’s estate to over 1,600 pubs. It will be funded through debt provided by Admiral’s current lenders, together with capital provided by existing investor, Proprium Capital Partners.

This latest acquisition builds on the Group’s successful track record of acquiring, integrating and developing sustainable tenanted pub businesses, underpinned by its award-winning and licensee-centric approach.

Commenting on the acquisition, Chris Jowsey, Chief Executive of Admiral Taverns said:

“This is one of the biggest acquisitions by Admiral to date and delivers on our strategy to build our estate to 1,500 sustainable pubs. It is a really exciting step forward for the business and we remain committed to the supportive partnership model, which is highly regarded by licensees.

“Our wet-led, community focused, supportive culture is very much shared by Hawthorn and I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome our new licensees and colleagues to Admiral.The acquisition has allowed us to acquire an excellent portfolio of pubs which we look forward to developing through our award-winning and highly supportive approach.”

During the pandemic Admiral has consistently championed its community pubs, offering significant rent aid and reopening support as well as lobbying the government on key issues such as hospitality grants, reducing Business Rates and VAT, and economic support for the hospitality sector.

Mark Davies, CEO of Hawthorn, the Community Pub Company, said:

“Throughout our sale and IPO process, we have been blown away by the high level of interest that has been expressed in Hawthorn, which is testament to the high-quality business we’ve built and the quality of our people. Every investor that we met with during the process who got to